Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

A Working Girl Can't Win: And Other Poems

A Working Girl Can't Win: And Other Poems

by Deborah Garrison

See All Formats & Editions

Deborah Garrison, whose work as an editor and writer has enlivened the pages of The New Yorker for more than a decade, evokes the characters and events of her everyday life with intense feeling and, more important, conjures up the universal dilemmas and pleasures of a young woman trying to come to terms with love and work.


Deborah Garrison, whose work as an editor and writer has enlivened the pages of The New Yorker for more than a decade, evokes the characters and events of her everyday life with intense feeling and, more important, conjures up the universal dilemmas and pleasures of a young woman trying to come to terms with love and work.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An intense, intelligent and wonderfully sly book of poems that should appeal as much to the general reader as to the poetry devotee."
—The New York Times Book Review

"With their short lines, sneaky rhymes, and casual leaps of metaphor, Garrison's poems have a Dickinsonian intensity, and the Amherst recluse's air of independent-minded, lightly populated singleness. Many a working girl will recognize herself in the poems' running heroine, and male readers will part with her company reluctantly."—John Updike

"Wry, sexy, appealing — with a wonderful lyric candor."—Elle

Library Journal
Garrison, a New York-based poet and senior editor at The New Yorker, has produced this slim volume of highly accessible poetry: the talented observations of a bright young career woman preoccupied with men, sex, clothes, domesticity, and office politics. One only wishes that Garrison would use her vivid skills with the language ("the sun's fuzzy mouth sucking the day back") to explore issues and scenery that more deeply touch the reader's soul. She's capable of gorgeous images; of peonies she writes, "I used to hate/ their furry scent, their fat cheeks packed/ with held breath, the way they'd crumple open/ later, like women in tears." And her poems ring with inner rhythms and off-rhymes, along with smug, self-confident humor: "Are her roots/ rural, right-leaning? Is she Jewish,/ self-hating? Past her sell-by date,/ or still ovulating?" Garrison entertains but shallowly. Recommended with some reservations for larger public libraries.Judy Clarence, California State Univ. Lib., Hayward

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Modern Library Paperbacks Series
Product dimensions:
5.48(w) x 8.48(h) x 0.23(d)

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

The Firemen

God forgive me—

It's the firemen,
leaning in the firehouse garage with their sleeves rolled up on the hottest day of the year.

As usual, the darkest one is handsomest.
The oldest is handsomest.
The one with the thin, wiry arms is handsomest.
The young one already going bald is handsomest.

And so on.
Every day I pass them at their station:
the word sexy wouldn't do them justice.
Such idle men are divine—

especially in summer, when my hair sticks to the back of my neck,
a dirty wind from the subway grate blows my skirt up, and I feel vulgar,

lifting my hair, gathering it together,
tying it back while they watch as a kind of relief.
Once, one of them walked beside me

to the corner. Looked into my eyes.
He said, "Will I never see you again?"
Gutsy, I thought.
I'm afraid not, I thought.

What I said was I'm sorry.
But how could he look into my eyes if I didn't look equally into his?
I'm sorry: as though he'd come close, as though this really were a near miss.

Please Fire Me

Here comes another alpha male,
and all the other alphas are snorting and pawing,
kicking up puffs of acrid dust

while the silly little hens clatter back and forth on quivering claws and raise a titter about the fuss.

Here comes another alpha male—
a man's man, a dealmaker,
holds tanks of liquor,
charms them pantsless at lunch:

I've never been sicker.
Do I have to stare into his eyes and sympathize? If I want my job
I do. Well I think I'm through

with the working world,
through with warming eggs and being Zenlike in my detachment from all things Ego.

I'd like to go somewhere else entirely,
and I don't mean

Husband, Not at Home

A soldier, a soldier,
gone to the litigation wars,

or down to Myrtle Beach to play golf with Dad for the weekend.

Why does the picture of him tramping the emerald grass in those

silly shoes or flinging his tie over his shoulder to eat a take-out dinner at his desk—

the carton a squat pagoda in the forest of legal pads on which he drafts,

in all block caps, every other line,
his motions and replies—fill her

with obscure delight?
Must be the strangeness: his life

strange to her, and hers to him,
as she prowls the apartment with a vacuum

in boxers (his) and bra, or flings herself across the bed

with three novels to choose from in the delicious, sports-free

silence. Her dinner a bowl of cereal, taken cranelike, on one

leg, hip snug to the kitchen counter. It makes her smile to think

he'd disapprove, to think she likes him almost best this way: away.

She'll let the cat jump up to lap the extra milk, and no one's home to scold her.

Worked Late on a Tuesday Night

Midtown is blasted out and silent,
drained of the crowd and its doggy day
I trample the scraps of deli lunches some ate outdoors as they stared dumbly or hooted at us career girls-the haggard beauties, the vivid can-dos, open raincoats aflap in the March wind as we crossed to and fro in front of the Public Library.

Never thought you'd be one of them,
did you, little lady?
Little Miss Phi Beta Kappa,
with your closetful of pleated skirts, twenty-nine till death do us part! Don't you see?
The good schoolgirl turns thirty,
forty, singing the song of time management all day long, lugging the briefcase home. So at 10:00 PM
you're standing here with your hand in the air,

cold but too stubborn to reach into your pocket for a glove, cursing the freezing rain as though it were your difficulty. It's pathetic,
and nobody's fault but your own. Now

the tears,
down into the collar.
Cabs, cabs, but none for hire.
I haven't had dinner; I'm not half of what I meant to be.
Among other things, the mother of three. Too tired, tonight,
to seduce the father.

Meet the Author

Deborah Garrison was born in Ann Arbor. She was educated at Brown University and New York University. She is now a senior nonfiction editor at The New Yorker, where she has worked since 1986. She and her husband and young daughter live in Montclair, New Jersey.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews